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Fears of power loss as Irma heads towards Florida

​Hurricane Irma poses a bigger menace to power supplies in Florida than Harvey did in Texas because it's packing near 200 mph winds.

By Jamie Fletcher | Published: 8th September 2017 News Updates

Irma's winds rival the strongest for any hurricane in history in the Atlantic, whereas Harvey's damage came from record rainfall. Even as Houston flooded, the power stayed on for most, allowing citizens to use TV and radio to stay apprised of danger, or social media to call for help.

"When Harvey made landfall in Texas it made it fully inland and weakened pretty quickly. Irma, however, could retain much of its strength," said Jason Setree, a meteorologist at Commodity Weather Group.

Irma has killed several people and devastated islands in the Caribbean.

Current forecasts put almost the entirety of the Florida peninsula in the path of the storm, which made landfall in the Caribbean with wind speeds of 185 mph (295 km/h).

The threat of the Category 5 storm, at the top of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, is grave enough that electricity generator Florida Power & Light (FPL) plans to shut its two nuclear power plants in the state, and officials warned that it may have to rebuild parts of its power system, which could take weeks.

Most Florida residents have not experienced a major storm since 2005, when total outages peaked around 3.6 million during Hurricane Wilma. Some of those outages lasted for weeks.

Setree compared the projected path of Irma to Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which knocked out power to about 1.2 million FPL customers in October.

FPL, a unit of Florida energy company NextEra Energy Inc , restored service to most customers affected by Matthew in just two days. But FPL spokesman Chris McGrath said: "With a storm as powerful as Irma, we want customers to prepare for damage to our infrastructure and potentially prolonged power outages."

He said it was too soon to speculate on the number and location of customers Irma could affect.

In a statement this week, FPL estimated about half of its near five million customers - particularly in the trio of populous southeast counties Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Broward - had not experienced a major hurricane since 2005.